Publishing Syllabi Online Should Ease Registration Woes
Registration may never be easy; perhaps it will always be a stress-inducing, nail-biting situation where only the strongest survive. But there are simple changes we can make to help students make more informed decisions -- most notably, publishing syllabi as a way to research courses. Many colleges -- like Siena College, Utica College, and University of Connecticut -- already publish their syllabi through websites similar to Blackboard. This could ultimately result in fewer drops and, hopefully, less waitlisting.
Many students now add classes without knowing if they will actually end up taking it -- stealing vital spots from other students. And with required courses, students sign up for classes they are unfamiliar with, sometimes entering ones with course material shopping lists of over a hundred dollars (like with textbooks or art supplies). Students are also frequently unaware of events or retreats that may be required when registering for a class. With published syllabi, it will be easier for informed decisions to be made, with less issues occuring later on for students.
Publishing syllabi is also a nice compromise to Skidmore not having a similar “shopping week” to other schools. Harvard University, while agreeably a much larger campus, gives students a week to attend classes, listen to lectures, and test out courses. Harvard feels that this helps undergraduates “ensure that they ultimately enroll in their most desirable courses” (The Harvard Crimson). While this alternative has its own problems -- including lack of space in lecture halls and classrooms -- Harvard students get first-hand experiences (rather than just word-of-mouth on what a class might be like, which typically happens at Skidmore).
A syllabus is a contract between students and professors that we all agree with -- or not -- the first day we enter the class; but the professor gets to agree in advance. It also will not be difficult, or too much extra work, for professors to upload their syllabi to Blackboard. Ultimately, it may be easier for professors, rather than have students emailing them requesting to see a copy of the syllabi. And because this would be new at Skidmore, our community has the agency to decide our own rules and how it works.
Meaning, we can decide all syllabi are subject to change, even after they are uploaded. We could also allow uploaded syllabi to be from when professors previously taught the course. Or, if the professor is introducing a new class, they have already had to have the class approved by the department, so most likely have some form of description they could upload. If not, an outline of typical assignments -- as some students learn better from one form over another -- would be helpful.
Along with publishing syllabi, it would be nice to know exactly how many seats are being reserved for lower-classmen while registering. As of right now, there is no clear statement provided that shows students how many open seats have actually been reserved per class year. So students base their registration off a much larger number of available seats, only to realize those seats they were counting on were reserved the morning of registration. This is not to say professors should not reserve seats -- especially for more popular classes that may fulfill requirements -- as it is important that every level of student has a chance to take a course, but at least make it clear to everyone.
Students will inevitably become overwhelmed with the options and requirements-needed when course registration for the fall 2018 semester starts next week, April 3, and goes until April 12. Signing up for classes may never be easy, but access to syllabi before deciding on which classes to take is a worthy change. The classes we take in college are meant to enrich and excite us, and learning about them via word-of-mouth is no longer our best option.